Maquipucuna Reserve
by Fernando Justicia

February/Febrero 1996

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The Maquipucuna Reserve is a 4500-hectare, privately owned and managed nature reserve surrounded by 14000 hectares of "protected forest" in Ecuador. Eighty percent of Maquipucuna consists of steeply-sloped, undisturbed cloud forest. Covering four different life zones ranging from 1200 to 2800 meters above sea level, the Reserve houses a tremendous diversity of flora and fauna. In fact, it is located next to the Choco bioregion of northwestern Ecuador, which is one of only ten "biodiversity hotspots" in the world.

Tropical Andean cloud forests such as Maquipucuna are incredibly rich in epiphytes such as orchids, ferns bromeliads, and Araceae (a family of ornamental plants with large heart shaped leaves). The diversity of plant rivals that of lowland tropical forests and is a result of the humid conditions due to the nearly constant mists at high altitudes. More than 1000 species of plants have already been identified, and further studies will at least double this number.

Faunal diversity is equally high, and includes many endangered species as well as endemics (found here and nowhere else). More than 300 species of birds have been identified, representing over one third of the number of bird species in all of North America. In terms of mammals, there are at least 45 known species including pumas, ocelots, spectacled bear, bats, agoutis, peccaries, tapir and deer. Butterflies and other invertebrates are also spectacular in number and variety.

Archeological studies indicate that the area in and around Maquipucuna was home to pre-incan peoples known as Yumbos. To this day, one can still find ceramics, burial sites and buried pathways used as they traveled between the highlands and the coast. Modern day residents of the area are farmers, dedicating themselves to raising cattle and producing sugar cane and its derivatives.


The Thomas H. Davis Ecotourist center is designed and constructed to fit into the context of the natural environment. Because of the constant warm temperature (average year round is 18 Celsius or 65 Farenheit), the structure is open, with views of local flora and sounds of birds and the free-flowing river. It houses comfortable accommodation for up to 22 people, with dining and living/meeting areas, bathrooms and hot showers.

In addition, there is a separate research station (complete with laboratory space) for visiting scientists. Meals are provided for all and are based on the use of local produce and regional and national specialties.


The entrance to the Reserve is a two hour drive from Quito, and is accessed first along a newly-paved road from Calacali (the town of the middle of the world monument) towards the town of Nanegalito, and then unpaved road to the north. Four wheel drive vehicles are recomended.


The Maquipucuna Reserve was established by The Maquipucuna Foundation, founded in 1988 as a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of Ecuador's biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources. The foundation promotes the participation of local communities in its programs.

For more information contact:

Fundacion Maquipucuna
P.O. Box 17-12-167
Baquerizo #238-y-Tamayo


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